Latest federal court order favours right to carry guns in some New Mexico public parks

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A U.S. District Court judge is standing by her decision to block portions of a public health order from New Mexico’s governor that would suspend the right to carry firearms in many public parks in the Albuquerque area, with appeals pending before a higher court. The Monday order from Albuquerque-based Judge Kae Riggs denied a request from the governor to leave in place a temporary ban on firearms in some public places in greater Albuquerque, including most public parks.

Riggs earlier concluded that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has not yet demonstrated a historical tradition of banning firearms in public parks or similar areas in the past, in response to a lawsuit by Torrance County resident James Springer – a plaintiff in one of several lawsuits filed against the governor by gun rights advocates. “Our position is that’s not something that is contemplated under the Second Amendment,” said Springer’s attorney, A. Blair Dunn, applauding the judge’s order.

Last year, U.S. District Judge David Urias ruled in the other direction in a victory for the governor, rejecting a request from other gun rights advocates to block temporary firearms restrictions while challenges move forward. It will likely fall to the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver to reconcile the orders from Urias and Riggs. Lujan Grisham spokesperson Maddy Hayden said Tuesday that the governor “respectfully” disagrees with Riggs.

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“Judge Riggs’ opinion ignores this caselaw and the massive amount of historical evidence in the record supporting the constitutionality of the temporary restrictions imposed by the public health order,” Hayden said in an email. “We respectfully disagree with the opinion and are confident that our ongoing appeal to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals will be successful.” Lujan Grisham, a second-term Democrat, invoked the emergency orders last year in response to a spate of gun violence including the fatal shooting of an 11-year-old boy outside a minor league baseball stadium.

Gun rights advocates also are urging the New Mexico Supreme Court to block the orders. The court recently heard oral arguments in the lawsuit brought by Republican state legislators, the National Rifle Association and several residents of the Albuquerque area. The rest of the public health orders have remained intact, including directives for monthly inspections of firearm dealers statewide, reports on gunshot victims at New Mexico hospitals, wastewater testing for illicit substances at schools and more.

During a 30-day legislative session that concludes Feb. 15, Lujan Grisham also is advocating for a broad suite of legislative proposals on gun control and enhanced penalties for violent crime. On Tuesday, a proposal to shore up New Mexico’s red-flag gun law advanced past its first House committee hearing on a 4-2 party-line vote with Democrats in support of the bill from legislators including state Rep. Christine Chandler, of Los Alamos.

Votes against the bill were cast by two Republican lawmakers who are pursuing impeachment proceedings against the governor for her emergency health orders on gun violence. New Mexico’s red-flag law, aimed at removing firearms from people who pose a danger to themselves or others, was enacted in 2020 in response to a mass shooting by a lone gunman at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, the prior year that killed 24 people.

Proposed changes would expedite procedures for obtaining an “extreme risk” order to seize firearms and expand the range of people who can petition to temporarily remove guns to include health care professionals.